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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Perception Rules

Coach Blauer shared this video on his Facebook feed earlier today. (Rodney King weighed in's worth check out, if you're on the Book of Faces).

It's an old video, and I think I've shared it on this blog before, but I wanted to look at it from a different perspective.

Let me summarize the part that I think should be obvious. This behavior depicted in this video is abuse. Period, full stop. It is also poor teaching. These students are learning nothing valuable, and if anything, are being conditioned to be victims. If I saw this kind of nonsense going on in a school that I walked into, I would walk out. I would consider contacting the authorities.

That's really not the part I want to talk about though. What I want to talk about is the defenses that have been offered on behalf of this man.

The instructor in the video is Satoru Sayama, a Japanese professional wrestler and MMA fighter. Apparently, he's very well known, and well regarded as one of the founding influences of Shooto, among other things. Naturally, this means that people have made some weird attempts to defend the man depicted in this video.

Defense #1 -- The Better Fighter Defense ("He's a legend, and you couldn't take him").

I find it deeply disturbing how many people in the martial arts industry buy into the paradigm that says, "well, he can kick your ass, so he's right." It's a ridiculous premise on any number of levels, particularly when it comes to morality.

I have no particular illusions about being some great badass. I really don't. The world is full of people who can beat me in a fight. Not all of them are moral exemplars (in fact, I would wager that many of them are not). There is correlation between fighting skill and moral character. NONE.

Defense #2 -- The Misunderstood Man (
"He's really a great instructor/great guy")

Not in this clip.

This is the thing that really struck me about this. I've seen a number of people (including at least one big name instructor) putting forth this idea that this clip doesn't accurately represent Sayama as a teacher.

That's nice to say, but unfortunately for Sayama, the clip is out there. Which means if someone goes looking for clips of Sayama teaching, this is what they'll find. (I actually did a quick Google search for "Sayama teaching", "Sayama shooto teaching", and "Tiger Mask teaching". This video came up in all of them, almost at the top. Which means if I was looking for info about this guy as a coach, this is the first thing I'd find.

So if nothing else, this should serve as a warning to instructors. That "goofy" clip that you threw up on youtube because you were having fun? It might come back to haunt you.

Everyone and their mother may say that Sayama is a nice teacher and a humanitarian to rival Mother Theresa, but that's not what we see in this clip. 

Defense #3 -- The Whole Story

Seriously, every time I see this, there's someone saying "you don't know the whole story". Fine, what's the whole story? Is this something from his pro wrestling career, where he's playing the heel? Is it from a movie where he's the Cobra Kai instructor? Was it a news segment on bad martial arts instructors, where Sayama was showing people what a shitty teacher looks like?

If there's more to the story, let's get the story. Because in this clip, Sayama comes off as an abusive jerk, and nothing more.

(Side note: this seems to be a thing the martial arts. Everyone's always got "more the story", but the story never comes out. There's this weird need to pretend to have special secrets and inside info, instead of just talking openly about things. It's childish as a hell, and I wish it would die.)

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